Brightseed, the company founded by former Hampton Creek Research and Development Director Jim Flatt, to identify the presence of specific nutrients in plants that are believed to benefit human health, announced in its latest 27th round of funding Million dollars raised.
Brightseed will use part of the funding to complete clinical trials to demonstrate the benefits of phytonutrients and the claims the company and its partners are seeking to make.
The company’s first product is a phytonutrient compound believed to be beneficial for metabolic health and the treatment and management of fatty liver disease.
Using the company’s machine learning platform called Forager, Brightseed can identify the presence of phytonutrients in plant species. These plants can then be grown or their compounds made to make consumer food ingredients.
It is a variation on the thesis that Flatt developed at Hampton Creek. The idea there was to use machine learning to identify combinations of plant proteins from which protein substitutes for traditional animal foods can be made.
Rather than looking at protein substitutes in general terms, Flatt has shifted focus at Brightseed to focus on human health and functional ingredients ̵
To defend his case, Flatt referred to a study by Geisinger that followed pre-diabetic patients and showed how their condition can be controlled and improved by focusing on their metabolic health.
“For patients who spent $ 200 on whole foods, they reduced their A1c levels by 40 percent [and] That’s more than double what the existing drugs in the class can do, ”Flatt said. “From an economic point of view, they have reduced their health care costs by 80% thanks to fewer hospital admissions and insulin consumption.”
Brightseed intends to bring its own ingredient discoveries to market, but will partner with partners using the Forager System to collaborate on new ingredient discoveries that can be shared with manufacturers, Flatt said.
The dual path to market is likely one of the reasons Brightseed has been able to raise new capital Lewis & Clark AgriFood and past investors including Seed 2 Growth Ventures, Horizons Ventures, CGC Ventures, Fifty Years, Germin8 and AgFunder.
“This capital increase will really allow us to really accelerate research into the dark matter of nutrition. All of those phytonutrients that we know exist, ”Flatt said. “This Forager AI platform that we built … we developed a proprietary library that is about five times as good as the world [and] One of Forager’s strengths is that when we find known or new compounds, we can predict their health benefits. “
The company has already entered into a key partnership with Danone North America, which it announced earlier this year.
“As a leading provider of plant-based foods and beverages, Danone North America values external partnerships that can help us improve and optimize the taste, texture, and nutritional aspects of our products and contribute to our vision of biodiversity.” said Takoua Debeche, SVP Research & Innovation at Danone North America, in a statement at the time.
Forager’s nutrient identification technology also has implications that go well beyond the science of the ingredients, Flatt said.
“What the collector can really do is help create what is known as a virtuous cycle to incentivize the introduction of a biodiversity food supply chain and move to more regenerative farming practices. To do this, we do the hidden qualities or benefits of some of these practices of lesser-known plants and highlight why they can be of greater value and tell a story, ”he said.
For example, Brightseed is already working with a company to evaluate an underutilized super crop and work on improving and promoting its cultivation.
“There is some, albeit limited, data to show that agricultural practices can affect these phytonutrient levels. Forager is helping to add value to these phyotutrients and creating a story that will drive consumer acceptance and demand for more restorative products made with more regenerative farming practices that result in more nutrients in crops, ”said Flatt.
Although the company’s revenues are currently below $ 10 million, Flatt and his investors expect that to change quickly.
“Brightseed’s application of technology is changing our understanding of the natural resources available for our health and wellbeing,” said Dr. David Russell, operating partner at Lewis & Clark AgriFood, in a statement. “These discoveries are already having a major impact on the choice of ingredients and how we formulate the things we consume every day. This is a new approach that enables a much deeper understanding of the biological connections between plants and humans. We look forward to helping Brightseed make these breakthroughs. “